Reviews for September 6, 2012

Ex Deo – Caligvla

Ex Deo are a symphonic death metal band from Montreal, Quebec and “Caligvla” is their second album of Roman-inspired metal.

I remember hearing 2009’s “Romulus” but apparently it did not stick with me. Given that, I came into this album with the assumption that I do not like Ex Deo. I guess I should give the first album another listen because I was surprised to find I really like “Caligvla.”

There is certainly more symphonic than death metal about this album. I mean, the music does get pretty heavy at times, but there is just so much more going on here than I usually expect from a death metal album, and I think that is where the band really caught my attention.

A symphonic element always helps make songs sound large and epic. In this case it also helps convey the grand scale and power of the Roman Empire during its heyday. Done well, this kind of production will always suck me in (I am a sucker for grandiose melodramatic showmanship) and it has done its job well with me today. The vocals are harsh but are understandable if you are used to listening to the style. They blend well with the production to make for a very powerful album.

Well fought, Centurion. I give thee thumbs up. You will live to fight another day.

Check out the video for “I, Caligvla.”

Mad Maze – Frames of Alienation

Mad Maze is a thrash band from Italy and “Frames of Alienation” is their first full album, the follow up to 2010’s “No Time Left…” EP.

“Frames of Alienation” sounds heavily influenced by the original wave of 80s thrash bands. Which is to say I like it. They have a nice sharp, crisp guitar tone and vocals that at times remind me of old Forbidden. The vocals also have a bit of a rough edge at times, but mostly stick with a standard thrash style.

There is not much original sounding about this album, but if that does not bother one then this can be an enjoyable listen. I have such nostalgic fondness for this style of thrash that I am easily drawn into this album. Mad Maze may fall into the crowded retro-thrash genre, but at least they are providing a quality product. “Frames of Alienation” is better than a lot of the other albums out there currently trying to pull off this sound.

Check out the track “Sacred Deceit.”

Essenz – Mundus Numen

Essenz is a blackened doom metal band from Berlin, Germany and “Mundus Numen” is their second album.

The first of the six tracks, “Extinguish Shapes: Innermediate” establishes a slow doom-like presence. The second track, “Sea of Light: Pleroma” starts off in a faster black metal fashion, but before long slows back down to a somber and contemplative pace. And so it goes, back and forth, back and forth. I like the intensity of the faster parts, but overall I prefer the instrumental parts better during the slower passages. The vocals are harsh and gravelly and fairly typical black metal.

The production on “Mundus Numen” sounds pretty good; I would certainly say it is above average for this style. The guitar tone and feel is my favorite aspect of the album. The vocals are slightly lower in the mix than I like; the overall sound would benefit from the vocals being just a little more prominent.

“Mundus Numen” is, overall, a pretty good album. This is not at the top of the pile of my favorite albums right now, but it was an enjoyable listen and something that I will likely come back to again.

Here is the second track, “Sea of Light: Pleroma.”

Shadows in the Crypt – Cryptic Communications

Shadows in the Crypt is a black metal band from Pennsylvania and “Cryptic Communications” is their second album.

“Cryptic Communications” is your basic old-school sounding black metal album. There are no symphonic keyboard elements, and the production sounds thin and raw. These songs could have been recorded in 1993 or last week. Whether these things are good or bad is really up to the individual taste of the listener (as is the case with all music). I am still on the fence about these guys. On one hand, they are not doing much to further the genre in terms of moving forward and pushing boundaries. But on the other hand, this is still a pretty listenable traditional black metal album.

I suppose I will hesitantly embrace “Cryptic Communications.” I can dig the raw, visceral sound on these songs. I do not like to encourage retreading old ground, but I cannot call this a bad album either.

Check out the track “Embracing the Forbidden Arts.”